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Art exhibit offers 'urban therapy' for NYers

By Cristian Salazar

Associated Press

Published: Friday, June 3 2011 4:25 a.m. MDT

Troy Turnwald, 24, wearing baby-blue tennis shoes, a tie and jeans, was among the first visitors to curate his own miniature museum show, and said it was "extremely enlightening" to be able to associate the objects with his life. He said he had come to the exhibit to find some tranquility.

"Everybody's got stress in their lives, and I was curious to see what was being done here to alleviate that," said Turnwald, a cashier at a Brooklyn supermarket who moved to the city about a year ago from Grand Rapids, Mich. "I just sometimes feel assaulted by the immensity of the city."

Another therapy is "Goodoo," where visitors are asked to direct their "healing energies" to other people by adorning voodoo dolls with ornaments like red silk flowers, light bulbs and toy guitars. The "goodoo" dolls can then be taken home.

Somewhat more seriously, or perhaps more gut-wrenching, is a piece called "The Vaccine against Violence," in which each visitor is asked to express their urban frustrations by attacking a hooded dummy with a balloon for a head and sporting a drawing of whatever is causing the stress. (The idea was developed by Antana Mockus, former mayor of Bogota, Colombia).

Mel Bucholtz, of Boulder, Co., will be leading individuals and groups to relax and reflect on their lives through a short therapeutic hypnosis technique he refers to as "the tuning effect."

"I think people can benefit a lot from getting a little bit of distance from noise and frenetic activity," he said of the exhibit. "They can actually come to a place and play to do it."

On the first day of the exhibit, in the dimly-lit basement of the building, about two dozen people were spread out in front of Bucholtz on a mat, lounging, sitting or lying down on pillows.

As Bucholtz's soothing voice softly guided participants through the 20-minute exercise, the faintest of snores could be heard in the room, though sleep was not the intention — and Bucholtz would pleasantly ask for people to stay awake. The objective of the exercise, he explained, was to slow the conscious mind's brainwaves and to bring people to a sense of stillness where they can "objectively observe highly charged issues."

After the session, Dean Daderko said he was surprised by how much calmer he felt after the exercise.

"I feel like we get used to feeling perpetually overwhelmed," said the 39-year-old who has lived in New York City since 1996. He said when he leaves the city for the countryside or beaches, he realizes how constant the stress is.

"I always describe the beach as having a pipe cleaner through my brain," he said. "It's like things get cleaned out there."

Another volunteer therapist, Anna Konkle, 24, grew up in Vermont and in a small town in Massachusetts, but moved to New York City six years ago to go to acting school. She said she grew up with a mother who practiced meditation, surrounded by nature.

Though what attracted to her the city was the hubbub and lifestyle, she said it is a struggle to stay in the present and focused.

"Here, more than anywhere else, I want to go to therapy," she said. "Here, you can easily be broken down. There is so much stimulation."

Online:

Guggenheim Museum's "stillspotting nyc": http://stillspotting.guggenheim.org/

Pedro Reyes' Blog: http://www.blog.pedroreyes.net

Follow Cristian Salazar on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/crsalazar

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